Archbishop McCarthy Begins Title Defense At No. 1

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It would probably take just two hands to count the number of high school teams in the country that can reload and compete on a national level every season. But make sure to reserve a digit for Archbishop McCarthy High of Southwest Ranches, Fla.

The back-to-back defending state champions in Florida finished atop the rankings for Baseball America in 2011 and start there again in 2012. Now the Mavericks will try to accomplish two things that have been done only once before: a three-peat in Florida and a second straight national title. The only school to win three consecutive Florida state titles is Rich Hofman's Westminster Christian School (Palmetto Bay, Fla.) from 1996-98. Chatsworth (Calif.) High is the only school to finish No. 1 in consecutive seasons for BA. The Chancellors accomplished that in 2003-04 under Tom Meusborn.

Archbishop McCarthy head coach Rich Bielski is excited to defend the title, but was already expecting a challenging season.

"We're going to have to focus on the here and now," he said. "We play every week as if it's a tournament. Come playoff time, that's what it is. You have to win every game and every inning. We have to stay focused."

The Mavericks have five starters returning, but graduated two key pieces from last year's team in third baseman Jose Brizuela, a BA postseason All-American who hit .477 with seven home runs, and second baseman/righthander Alex Fernandez, who hit .470 with four home runs and went 10-0, 1.98 on the mound. However, as a team that reloads, Archbishop McCarthy has the players capable of stepping in and filling those holes.

Righthander Nick Travieso
Returning as the team's ace will be lefthander Andre Martinez, a Florida State signee who went 12-2, 1.50 with 96 strikeouts in 56 innings last season and touched 93 mph in a preseason game. Stepping in behind him will be righthander Nick Travieso, a third-team All-American and Miami signee who is getting buzz as a potential early round draft pick. Travieso threw just 18 innings as a junior simply because the innings weren't available. Now it's his turn to shoulder a heavier load.

"It's a testament to the amount of pitching we had last year," Bielski said. "He was in a middle relief and closer role last year. He's a shut down guy. He's looking forward to being a starter this year. His changeup has improved, so he's a three-pitch pitcher now."

Travieso toured the summer circuit last year, sitting in the low 90s with a heavy fastball and snapping off a solid slider with sharp break. He participated in the Under Armour All-America Game alongside shortstop Nick Basto, who will be looked upon to replace Brizuela's bat. Basto, a Florida International signee, hit .370 with 30 RBIs in 2011.

"They're looking forward to the challenge," Bielski said. "That's what has been driving them to be the best."

The Mavericks have once again set up a difficult schedule and will undoubtedly have a target on their backs, but that comes with the territory.

"We were expecting that anyway," Bielski said. "Being state champs, that's always the case. We're elated and honored just to be in that position."